Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra expelled from Lok Sabha; she says ‘will fight back’
Flanked by Opposition MPs, Moitra read out her statement. She equated her expulsion with hanging by a “kangaroo court” and alleged the parliamentary panel was being weaponised by the government
New Delhi: Trinamool Congress (TMC) member Mahua Moitra was expelled from the Lok Sabha in connection with ‘cash-for-query’ allegations on Friday, shortly after the ethics committee tabled its report recommending action against her for sharing her login credentials and password with an unauthorised person, its impact on national security, and finding that it amounted to unethical conduct and contempt of the House.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi moved a motion to expel the Trinamool member for “unethical conduct” after a heated debate. Opposition members walked out of the Lok Sabha as speaker Om Birla started the voting process on the motion moved by the minister.
“This House accepts the conclusions of the Committee that MP Mahua Moitra’s conduct was unethical and inappropriate. So, it is not appropriate for her to continue as an MP and she has to be expelled from the House,” the speaker said.
The Trinamool MP, who was not allowed to speak on the committee’s recommendation in the House, launched a sharp attack on the government and the ruling party outside.
Flanked by Opposition MPs, Moitra read out her statement. She equated her expulsion with hanging by a “kangaroo court” and alleged the parliamentary panel was being weaponised by the government to force the opposition into submission.
“There was no evidence of any cash, any gifts anywhere. The recommendation of expulsion was solely based on the complaint that I shared my login. But there is no rule whatsoever in this regard,” Moitra said.
Moitra contended that the ethics panel had no power to expel lawmakers. She also slammed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government for ‘shutting her into submission’.
“...If this Modi government thought that by shutting me up they could do away with the Adani issue, let me tell you this kangaroo court has only shown to all of India that the haste and the abuse of due process you have used demonstrates how important Adani is to you. And to what length you will go to harass a single woman MP into shutting her into submission…,” Moitra said as quoted by news agency ANI.
“I am 49 years old, I will fight you for the next 30 years inside Parliament, outside Parliament,” the TMC leader said.
Before the report was tabled, Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury wrote to Birla against the ethics panel recommending Moitra’s expulsion over the “cash-for-query” charge, saying that it is “an extremely serious punishment and has very wide ramifications”.
On November 9, the committee adopted the report recommending the TMC lawmaker’s expulsion, by a margin of 6-4, for sharing her login credentials and password with an unauthorised person, its impact on national security, and finding that it amounted to unethical conduct and contempt of the House.
The recommendations of the report also mentioned that Moitra accepted “money — cash and kind, amenities and various other facilities” from businessman Darshan Hiranandani, with whom the password and login details were shared.
It noted that 50 out of the 61 questions asked by Moitra in Parliament sought information “with the intent of protecting or perpetuating business interests” of Hiranandani. Moitra has denied the allegations.
The ethics committee also asked for an “intense, legal, institutional inquiry” by the Centre in a time-bound manner “In view of the highly objectionable, unethical, heinous and criminal conduct of Mahua Moitra.”
In the ethics committee, Bahujan Samaj Party MP Danish Ali and Janata Dal-United lawmaker Giridhari Yadav protested against the recommendations of the draft report, which was circulated to the 15 members of the panel on Wednesday evening. Panel chairman Sonkar called for a vote and the report was adopted by a majority.
The report of the home, the Income Tax Department and external affairs ministries also weighed against Moitra’s efforts to absolve herself from the charges.
In its reply to the panel on October 31, the IT ministry underlined the threats that the country faces from State and non-State cyber actors and said: “Such leakage of credentials could render the system vulnerable to serious cyber-attacks and potentially disable the system entirely, thereby crippling the functioning of the Parliament of India.”
The panel noted that Hiranandani, who admitted that Moitra gave him login credentials to directly post questions in the Lok Sabha portal, is an Indian national but has residency rights in UAE. “Moreover, he has close relatives who are foreign nationals. This creates a serious risk of leakage of sensitive material to foreign agencies,” the IT ministry told the ethics committee.
Sonkar-led panel concluded that while the Trinamool lawmaker visited UAE on four occasions between January 1, 2019 and September 30, 2023, “her login credentials, i.e., Members Portal had been operated from Dubai, United Arab Emirates on 47 occasions.” The committee report said the member’s portal was accessed from the same IP address on all 47 occasions.
The panel shared the security concerns of the home and IT ministry over the transfer of login credentials to unauthorised elements and also concluded that Hiranandani’s affidavit on October 20 was genuine.
The ethics committee also pointed out that Sections 66 and 43 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 prescribe punishment for sharing passwords and other sensitive personal data or information.
The committee found out that 50 out of 61 questions of Moitra in Parliament “shockingly” sought information, with the intent of protecting or perpetuating the business interests of Hiranandani and his company.
The panel charged Moitra of compromising national security by “irrepressible and reckless actions” and said the extent of it “could only be pragmatically quantified by undertaking a structured institutional by the Government of India.”
The Trinamool lawmaker, who is known for her strongly-worded speeches, has received gifts from Hiranandani including a Hermes scarf and a Bobi Brown lipstick; the businessman also provided her cars in Dubai and Mumbai and gave the layout drawing when she renovated her official Telegraph Lane bungalow.
The panel concluded that it has been established that Moitra accepted “illegal gratification” from Darshan Hiranandani.
The ethics panel met on October 26 and November 2 after the Lok Sabha Speaker received the complaint from BJP lawmaker Nishikant Dubey. Moitra, Dubey and her former friend Jai Anant Dehadrai had deposed before the panel.
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